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Facebook: In the Era of Automation, Human Oversight Still Required

Updated: Aug 28, 2019

by: Tom Hirst

With the rise of artificial intelligence in digital marketing, the days of human-managed PPC campaigns may seem to be numbered. In the past few months we have seen Google implement multiple changes to their ads platform, forcing advertisers away from a system of manual bidding to one controlled by data learning and algorithms. Facebook are the latest digital platform to follow suit and with changes coming as early as September this year, it is essential to be prepared.

What’s changing?

Earlier this month, Facebook announced that all ad campaigns will be moving to the platforms Campaign Budget Optimisation (CBO) setting starting from September 2019. CBO will automatically distribute spend to “higher performing ad sets” as judged by Facebook.

Currently advertisers are able to set a daily budget for each ad set which allows for a high degree of control over how much is spent on each audience, device, placement etc. From September, there will be one centralised campaign budget that Facebook will distribute to ad sets deemed most likely to deliver results. Not all control will be lost – you will still have the option to set minimum and maximum spend limits for each ad set (though it wouldn’t be a great surprise to see this feature removed in the future).

CBO is an existing option when setting a new campaign in Ads Manager, but from September this will be made a default setting.

How will this affect my campaigns?

With the correct set up, this change shouldn’t have any detrimental effects to your campaign’s performance, so long as Facebook is provided with access to the data it needs to optimise each campaign to the appropriate KPI.

Currently many advertisers use external analytics software, such as Campaign Manager 360 or Google Analytics, to track conversions and make subsequent optimisations to Facebook ad sets. While this doesn’t have to change in the future, it is important to provide Facebook with conversion data so that it can make appropriate KPI-based optimisations. Without this data, Facebook would likely make optimisations based on less insightful metrics, such as CTR, that may not always translate to conversions.

Similar to Google’s global site tag, the Facebook Pixel can be used to feedback real time on-site user behaviour to Facebook. Once the code is installed across the site, setting up “standard events” or “custom conversions” allows Facebook to track and optimise towards users likely to convert.

Should I trust Facebook to optimise effectively?

So now you have installed the Facebook Pixel onto your site and set Facebook to optimise to conversions, should you have faith in Facebook to reach the right users and improve campaign performance?

We ran two identical campaigns, one optimised towards landing page views and the other optimised towards conversions. Optimising towards conversions using the Facebook Pixel resulted in a significantly higher conversion rate that helped to reduce CPA by 56%.

So far so good but M.i. Media’s biddable team will stay on their toes. Though Facebook’s motives for rolling out this change may be entirely benign, advertisers should not lose sight of the macro backdrop (which has to be pieced together as Facebook remains much more circumspect with its data than it expects its advertisers to be with it).

Though Facebook’s share of advertising revenues have continued to grow, Facebook’s penetration has begun to stagnate and there is evidence that the UK’s social media users are beginning to spend more time with alternative networks (though these of course include Facebook owned Instagram and WhatsApp). Basic rules of economics tell us that rising demand (revenue) coupled with flat or falling supply (audience) leads to cost inflation so biddable teams need to stay alert to minimise the erosion of their channel’s effectiveness.

M.i. Media’s Takeaway?

Artificial intelligence is evidently being pushed upon digital advertisers and will soon be the norm. CBO is just the first of many changes we can expect from Facebook in the coming months. During this transition, digital teams will be required to provide the machines with the data and insights to allow for learning and effective automation. While the Pixel can do this for Facebook, it works in isolation of other channels and media. M.i. Media’s belief is that 3rd party tracking remains vital to provide a broader and multiplatform view of performance, helping us to monitor each platform’s position in the media hierarchy so clients’ budgets remain optimised within each channel but also between them.

More information on the Facebook Pixel can be found here https://www.facebook.com/business/help/402791146561655